Books, Travel, Entertainment and More

Archive for December, 2006

COMMENTARY: The Caribbean at the End of 2006…and Beyond

Posted by kinchendavid on December 31, 2006

By Sir Ronald Sanders

As dusk descends on the Year 2006, the 15 small countries of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) continued to face daunting challenges in the global community in relation to trade, investment and development assistance.

Banana exports were already badly hurt from the loss of their preferential access to the European Union (EU) market causing pain for small banana growers in rural communities in several Caribbean countries. But, as the year was drawing to a close, Ecuador, which already controls 60 per cent of the world market, launched a new challenge to EU banana regime. It is a challenge Ecuador is likely to win in the long run simply because World Trade Organization (WTO) rules say the days of preferences are done, and CARICOM states have not managed to get themselves into a category of countries which qualify for special and differential treatment.

Therefore, Caribbean banana growers in Belize, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and Dominica are headed for more difficult times.

The prospects for sugar exports seemed no better. Having lost the preferential price they earned in the EU, the sugar producers in CARICOM countries (Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago) were struggling with ways to transform the industry; but at least some of them are coming to terms with the need for innovation such as ethanol production.

Financial services, particularly off shore banking and insurance, once held out hope for the adjustment of some CARICOM economies; this hope is fading fast. While it is true that there has been growth in the provision of financial services within CARICOM particularly from financial institutions in Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica, participation in the global economy is shrinking.

Except for the Bahamas and to a certain extent Barbados (which has a special treaty arrangement with Canada), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Financial Action Task Force (both creatures of the richest countries of the world), using the International Monetary Fund as a surrogate to implement suffocating rules that suit their own powerful states, have effectively constrained the scope of much of the Caribbean’s financial services sector as a global player. The requirements for regulation, monitoring and enforcement are out of proportion to the scale of money and transactions that pass through the area, and they are eating into profitability.

Current negotiations between Caribbean countries and the EU over Economic Partnership Agreements are sadly lacking in a development orientation. The EU is insistent on the Caribbean opening its markets to European goods, services and investment with little compensatory mechanisms for the dislocation which such opening will cause to local businesses and the losses to governments of tariff revenues.

This situation calls into question policy positions adopted by the region in its negotiating strategies and demands a more radical approach, including a re-examination of the negotiating structures themselves. The negotiations require the expertise of good technical officials, but they also now cry out for political positions to be adopted based on the realities of economic conditions on the ground. As the year ended, there were rumblings within the Caribbean over the internal workings of the negotiation strategy and structure.

Tourism was the one bright spot in an otherwise bleak horizon in 2006. But, the industry boomed in the last three years on the back of a weak US dollar to which many Caribbean currencies are tied. European and other tourism to the region improved simply because the drop in the exchange rate between the US dollar and other major currencies created a de facto devaluation of Caribbean currencies.

Structural changes that are desperately required for tourism, including the promotion of local ownership, enforceable linkages to farmers and local manufacturers, greater pan-Caribbean cooperation in promotion, flight scheduling and hospitality-sharing, are yet to happen. A proposal for a Caribbean Tourism Fund, commissioned by the Caribbean Hotels Association, has been produced by a UK firm, but so far no action has been taken on it.

Global competition not only in its traditional export markets, but also within their own domestic market stared CARICOM countries in the face as 2006 faded away, underlying starkly the absolute necessity to integrate or perish.

At least the year started with six CARICOM countries at last bringing the much promised Caribbean Single Market (CSM) into existence, and, despite the uncertainties that surrounded their decision, the OECS countries joined in the middle of the year.

The Single Market is by no means complete and, unless a range of measures are established by law including common regulatory rules for services and the machinery for integrating production across CARICOM countries, it will be a flawed process giving rise more to contention than to harmony.

A key issue – the freedom of movement of labour – remains off the discussion table, mired in fears of a political backlash for the political party in each country that dares to acknowledge the reality that there can be no genuine single market without free movement of all the factors of production. A great insularity (if not xenophobia) continues to exist among groups within CARICOM countries directed at each other.

Sharp divisions are still part of the relationship between governments and the private sector, on the one hand, and governments and the trade union movement on the other, in many counties of CARICOM. Yet, until there is a symbiotic relationship between these three groups that is built around an agreed strategy for taking forward the Single Market, CARICOM will be marking time in a world where other regions are marching forward.

It is a glaring reality – from which the Caribbean as a whole is yet to learn – that the government negotiators in trade negotiations, whether bilaterally, at the WTO, or through the OECD – are representing the interests of big businesses in their countries who want access to the markets of others on the most advantageous terms while at the same time restricting entry to their own market through the use of non-tariff barriers and other ruses.

The time is now urgent when there must be substantial consultations between Caribbean governments, the Caribbean private sector and the Caribbean Trade Union movement, to determine agreed strategies for trade negotiations in goods and services.

The way in which CARICOM itself is to be governed is an issue that governments continue to duck. For over fourteen years, there has been a blueprint for such joint governance produced by the West Indian Commission. It is a blueprint that would ensure through CARICOM-wide laws that decisions are enforced and not left to languish until the last reluctant government recognizes the value of their implementation.

For fourteen years, some governments have filibustered over the plan, worried, it seems, about the loss of individual national control even though each structure presented so far has resided final authority in councils of ministers drawn from each territory and, of course, in Heads of government themselves.

When CARICOM Heads of Government meet early in 2007, a new report on governance of the Caribbean Community will be before them. It is to be hoped that this time, given the competition that the region is facing in the international community, for trade, investment and aid, they will be emboldened to put the necessary machinery in place.

One thing is for sure: if the Single Market is not completed in all its aspects, and the governance of the community remains unsettled, the prospect of a Single Economy in 2008 – which is a far more ambitious even though vital project – will dim as it drifts into the distance.

CARICOM can not afford the delay. And, it can no longer live on the laurels of being one of the most advanced regional integration movements in global society. Events in world trade, in business competitiveness, in science and technology are overtaking it. Real empowerment has to be given to the regional integration structure if it CARICOM and its member states are to advance. If such empowerment does not occur, some of the more progressive member states will break out on their own, and the regional process will wither on the vine.

Already some governments of CARICOM countries believe that, in their individual interest, they should be entering bilateral trade and investment relationships with countries such as the US, Canada, India and China. Countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, which have resources – particularly oil and gas – in which these larger countries are very interested, may not long tolerate the constraints of a slow moving and indecisive CARICOM.

The Single Market will also continue not to fulfill its promise to farmers and manufacturers in CARICOM until governments pay serious attention to transportation within the region by developing a common and enforceable transportation policy. It is not a tribute to CARICOM that after 33 years of existence, the agricultural and manufacturing production of CARICOM states can not be transported within the region. Yet, both farm products and manufactured goods can be brought to individual countries through the United States.

It should be noted that the region’s bill for food imported from outside the areas is now US$3.6 billion.

A policy of CARICOM wide incentives for creating a shipping industry within the region is non-existent. But, if the market were to be developed to include all the CARICOM countries plus Cuba and the Dominican Republic, a profitable investment opportunity surely presents itself.

In the meantime, the absence of an agreed policy has made a complete mess of regional air transportation. As 2007 dawns, neither tourism to the region nor Caribbean travelers within the region can feel secure. Instead of one regional airline – or at least a merger of some of the costly activities of individual carriers – national carriers are continuing to compete among themselves. Caribbean Airlines, the successor to BWIA, will compete with the new airline that emerges from negotiations between LIAT and Caribbean Star; Air Jamaica will compete with Caribbean Airlines on traffic from the US into the Caribbean; and Caribbean Airlines operations from the United Kingdom will have no Caribbean identity as British Airways aircraft takes BWIA’s place in a code sharing deal.

The arrangements in air transportation have been reached by individual governments. It seems no government is willing to offend other governments by insisting at a CARICOM level on an air transportation policy. So, in the name of national pride or national control, the gains that could result from regional cooperation go by the way side.

At the root of this lack of progress in deepening CARICOM’s integration arrangements are two things: political pandering to, if not exploitation of, the fears by groups within national communities that they will be swamped by an influx of other Caribbean nationals into their territory; and a failure to explain effectively that CARICOM should be a single space, like the United States, where people, production, and capital of each state move freely just as, for example, the people, production and capital of Texas move to New York.

2006 witnessed a small step forward in this process when the basic foundation of the Caribbean Single Market was laid. Beyond 2006, CARICOM must deepen the integration process and must, particularly, facilitate the integration of the factors of production to make Caribbean economies more competitive in the global economy.

It is urgent that the mental construct of national boundaries be broken down and replaced with a realistic understanding that for the people of CARICOM to survive the onslaught of global competition, CARICOM must be a single landscape.

* * *

Sir Ronald Sanders is a business executive and former Caribbean Ambassador to the World Trade Organisation who publishes widely on Small States in the global community. He is a regular contributor to Huntington News Network. Responses to: ronaldsanders29@hotmail.com


Posted in Guest Commentaries | Leave a Comment »

REAL ESTATE: WHAT AM I BID? Alabama Firm Promotes Online Auctions for Selling Real Estate

Posted by kinchendavid on December 30, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Mike Keracher, left and Tony Isbell of RealtyBid.com

With the bursting of the real estate price bubble in most of the country, you’d expect to find a firm that markets real estate through online auctions to be suffering.

You’d be wrong in the case of Gadsden, Alabama-area-based RealtyBid.com. This is a firm that was part of the dotcom revolution of the late 1990s and early 2000s that not only survived the boom and bust of dotcoms, but has thrived, according to CEO Tony Isbell. “The firm was founded in 1999 as a traditional auction company,” Isbell told HNN in a telephone interview. “The online business — RealtyBid.com — was created in 2001, inspired, Isbell said, by the success of eBay’s online auction model.

“We have been exclusively selling properties online since 2001,” he added.

Anniston, AL-native Isbell, who founded the firm with another veteran of real estate auctions, Mike Keracher, from the Birmingham suburb of Hoover, said that bad times for real estate are often good times for real estate auction concerns – especially RealtyBid.com.

The comparison with eBay is only superficial, he told HNN.

“We don’t accept listings from individuals and we don’t have real estate ads, like eBay,” Isbell said. ““We assist real estate agents throughout the nation for homes for sale and we handle foreclosed properties for the top lenders in the nation.”

Foreclosed properties are not identified separately now, but will be in the very “near” future as foreclosures continue to rise, Isbell added.

Isbell and Keracher each have about 20 years experience in real estate auctions, and Keracher, the firm’s executive vice president, is a licensed auctioneer.

Since its founding, RealtyBid.com, with 16 employees, has sold more than 5,000 properties – valued at more than $250 million – in all 50 states, according to the Rainbow City, AL-based firm’s marketing director Daphne Shannon.

Shannon told HNN that, “according to the National Auctioneers Association (NAA residential property auction sales grew 39.2 percent or $4 billion from 2002 to 2005 (from $10.2 billion to $14.2 billion annually).”

“It’s important to note that this phenomenal growth came during a time when the real estate market was extremely healthy, during a time that conventional wisdom would say that real estate auctions shouldn’t have be ‘necessary,’ yet the growth speaks for itself,” she added. “And, with the real estate market now downshifting, we certainly expect that the acceptance and use of real estate auctions, especially online auctions, is only going to continue to grow.”

Shannon: “Also, the NAA recently announced that residential real estate auctions were up 4.5% in the third quarter 2006 over the same time period in 2005. This is an impressive statistic that shows how residential real estate auctions are becoming more integrated into the mainstream of the real estate industry; however, during the same third quarter when the NAA reported an increase of 4.5 percent in residential real estate auctions overall, RealtyBid.com experienced a more than 84 percent increase in online real estate auction sales over the same period in 2005. In other words, the residential real estate auction industry is growing, and RealtyBid.com and online real estate auctions are leading the charge.”

This past July, when national home sales dropped for the eighth time in the last 10 months, RealtyBid.com had a record-breaking 1,000 residential properties nationwide up for bid on its web site, five times the same month in 2005, Isbell added.

Business writers, including one from The Birmingham (AL) News, have taken note of the “Stars Fell On Alabama” state’s homegrown success story, with News writer Roy L. Williams quoting Isbell: “The sheer volume of properties offered each month around the nation keeps the company in the spotlight among agents and investors nationwide…”. Williams went on to say that the firm’s sales volume “ranks it among the top five largest real estate auctioneers in the country.”

RealtyBid.com has garnered publicity in publications as varied as the Los Angeles Times, the (San Jose, CA) Mercury News, The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York’s Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, the Miami Herald, CNNmoney.com, MSNBC.com, Inmannews.com, in addition to the home state The Birmingham News.

Isbell noted that because of RealtyBid.com’s relationship building with real estate brokers, technological savvy real estate agents find it easy to work with the firm. And tech-savvy agents are where it’s at in today’s high-tech, online, wired world.

“RealtyBid.com is an accelerated sales tool for the real estate agent, providing greater coverage for listings – something that real estate brokers need in today’s real estate market,” Isbell told HNN, noting that the firm receives its revenue in the form of a 1 percent Buyer’s Premium based on the selling price of the property, paid by the buyer at closing. “The commission the broker receives comes from the seller, so we’re complementing the agent, not competing with him or her,” Isbell stressed. “We are one of the only online real estate models that is helping the agent and not getting into their pocket.”

He added that very few bidders close the deal without either seeing the property personally or having another person inspect it for them and report back to make sure the property is as advertised.

Isbell: “For the consumer, we are offering great opportunities to purchase homes, condominiums and land and good discounts over retail pricing. All properties offered on RealtyBid.com requires that it be offered with a discounted ‘reserve’ price.”

Isbell is upbeat about the future of online auctions, especially his firm, telling HNN that “We expect to triple our business volume in the next two years.”

As foreclosures “skyrocket” throughout the country, he said he expects more business from that segment of the market. In addition, real estate brokers want to move properties faster, to get their commissions sooner, so that segment will also grow rapidly, Isbell added.

Selling real estate by auction is nothing new to North American rural dwellers and is the preferred way to market real estate in Australia, where 70 percent of houses sold are sold by real estate auctioneers, he added.

So far this year, the top states by volume of properties listed and bid upon are, in order: Michigan, Texas and Georgia, Isbell told HNN. “We also expect to see more properties in places like California, Nevada and Illinois.” Web site: http://www.realtybid.com

* * *

David M. Kinchen began covering real estate in 1970 at The Milwaukee Sentinel and was a real estate reporter at the Los Angeles Times from 1976 to 1990. He has been a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors since 1971 and was president of NAREE in 1984.

Posted in Real Estate | 6 Comments »

MANN TALK: Crystallized Opinion

Posted by kinchendavid on December 29, 2006

By Perry Mann

Hinton, WV  – Life for me would be immeasurably more lonely were it not for the companionship of Thomas Hardy, the English novelist and poet, whose sojourn here was from 1840 to 1928 and whose abode was his beloved Wessex.

“Hardy’s death in his eighty-eighth year on January 11, 1928, deprived contemporary England of its most honored author. Although his ashes were placed in Westminster Abbey, his heart (as requested in his will) was buried in the churchyard of his own village, in the soil he loved so faithfully.” His testamentary request is a poignant manifestation of the deep respect that Hardy had for nature and the peasants that had to cope with its beauty, bounty, indifference, and cruelties.

Hardy was an agnostic, who lived most of his life during the reign of Queen Victoria and thus lived during an era of the belief that God was in His heaven and all was right with the world, a concept so simplistic and sentimental that it undoubtedly tormented Hardy’s entire being, mind and heart.

From Hardy’s Notebooks, one can read the following judgment with regard to the Christian Coalition and the conservative establishment of his day: “Poetry. Perhaps I can express more fully in verse ideas and emotions which run counter to the inert crystallized opinion—hard as a rock—which the vast body of men have vested interests in supporting. To cry out in a passionate poem that (for instance) the Supreme Mover or Movers, the Prime Force of Forces, must be either limited in power, unknowing, or cruel—-which is obvious enough, and has been for centuries—-will cause them merely a shake of the head; but to put it in argumentative prose will make them sneer , or foam, and set all the literary contortionists jumping upon me, a harmless agnostic, as if I were a clamorous atheist, which in their crass illiteracy they seem to think is the same thing …. If Galileo had said in verse that the world moved, the Inquisition might have let him alone.”

And Hardy did just that: He put into many poems his view of the indifference, cruelty, logiclessness and senselessness of God. Following is the first stanza of a poem titled “New Year’s Eve,” which is a colloquy between Hardy, the poet and agnostic, and God, the “sense-sealed,” omnipotent Supreme Mover:

“I have finished another year,” said God,
“In grey, green, white, and brown;
I have strewn the leaf upon the sod,
Sealed up the worm within the clod,
And let the last sun down.”

That is, God on this last day has lowered the sun and is looking back on the year with some satisfaction with what He has done: Made grey the sky, grown the grass, whitened the hills and vales, turned leaves to brown, strewn them upon the land and put the worm to bed. But now Hardy interrupts God’s smug reflections:

“And what’s the good of it?” I said,
“What reasons made you call
From formless void this earth we tread,
When nine-and-ninety can be read
Why naught should be at all?

“Yea, Sire; why shaped you us, ‘who in
This Tabernacle groan’ —-
If ever a joy be found herein,
Such joy no man had wished to win
If he had never known!”

Good question: What are God’s reasons for forming this earth from out of void when there are 99 reasons why there should be nothing at all? And good observation: Why, Lord, did you shape us to groan in this Lost Eden? What joys there are here, if man had never known about them, he would have no reason to work to gain them.

Then he: “My labors—-logicless—-
You may explain; not I:
Sense-sealed I have wrought, without a guess
That I evolved a Consciousness
To ask for reasons why.

“Strange that ephemeral creatures who
By my own ordering are,
Should see the shortness of my view,
Use ethic tests I never knew,
Or made provisions for!”

God replies that his labors have no logic, that man not God must explain them. He says that without sense he has created, not knowing so, a Consciousness that questions his creation.

It is strange, says God, that this short-lived species that I have wrought should note how short sighted I have been and apply a morality that I never knew or provided for.

He sank to raptness as of yore,
And opening New Year’s Day
Wove it by rote as theretofore,
And went on working evermore
In his unweeting way.

So, God opened the New Year; and absorbed as always in His rote operations, went back to work evermore in his unknowing, senseless and logicless way.

I surmise that “crystallized opinion” is as ready to sneer and foam at this verse, if it is read and understood, as it was in Hardy’s day. But the poem makes more sense to me than all the license plates that assure me that God loves me.

* * * *

Perry Mann is a former teacher, a lawyer, a former prosecuting attorney of Summers County and a regular columnist for the Nicholas Chronicle in Summersville and Huntington News Network.

Posted in Guest Commentaries | Leave a Comment »

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Beast on the East River’ Rages against UN’s World Government Aspects, Alleged Attempts to Supplant U.S. Sovereignty

Posted by kinchendavid on December 29, 2006

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV – Nathan’s Tabor’s “The Beast on the East River: The UN Threat to America’s Sovereignty and Security” (Thomas Nelson/Nelson Current, 304 pages, notes, bibliography, index, $24.99) pulls no punches in its antipathy to the 61-year-old organization on Manhattan’s East Side.

Tabor doesn’t like the aspects of the United Nations that impinge on U.S. laws and sovereignty, including – but definitely not limited to — what he says are attempts to take away gun ownership rights; using abortion as population control; using “junk science” to lower our standard of living by driving up the cost of energy sources; the controversial Law of the Sea Treaty – aptly named LOST; and placing U.S. soldiers under the command of UN officers in peacekeeping missions.

In the latter instance, he discusses the fate of U.S. Army Spec-4 Michael New, who refused to wear the U.N. uniform when President Clinton ordered U.S. troops into U.N. service in Macedonia in 1995. For his refusal to don the U.N. uniform, New was court-martialed and given a dishonorable discharge, even though he had served with distinction as a medic in the 1990-91 Gulf War.

Tabor definitely doesn’t care for the International Criminal Court, which uses inquisitorial methods reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s People Courts – my analogy — and in fact has a German named Hans-Peter Kaul as one of its inaugural judges. Tabor points out that the ICC is not to be confused with the World Court in The Hague; in fact, the U.S. has not ratified the Rome Treaty of 1998 that created the ICC.

If you’re a liberal, you’ll probably automatically dismiss Tabor’s polemic as part of the “Black Helicopter” school of fear mongering; if you’re a conservative, you’ll probably agree with his attack on the often scandal-ridden organization that many view as part of the problem, not part of the solution.

There seems to be no middle ground on the subject. My litmus test is the treatment of departing U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John R. Bolton. I think he’s a breath of fresh air, but he resigned rather than face a confirmation battle that he would probably lose. Conservatives love the in-your-face Bolton; liberals hate him. President Bush appointed Bolton using a recess appointment in August 2005 and his resignation was accepted Dec. 9, 2006. Alejandro Daniel Wolff, Deputy U.S. Representative to the United Nations, will be acting representative until a permanent replacement is found.

Even its staunch supporters agree that the UN is desperately in need of reform. The past 10 years under outgoing Secretary General Kofi Annan have seen scandal after scandal – many involving Annan, 68, of Ghana, who will be replaced on Jan. 1, 2007 by Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea as the UN’s eighth secretary general.

Tabor traces the idea of a supranational organization back to Tennyson’s 1842 poem “Locksley Hall,” which spoke of …”the Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World./ There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe, / And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.”

The poem was an inspiration to those who worked to form the League of Nations, promoted by President Woodrow Wilson, but rejected by the U.S. Congress in 1920 because of Wilson’s refusal to compromise, Tabor says. He also notes that President Harry S. Truman, one of the biggest supporters of the United Nations in 1945, carried a copy of “Locksley Hall” in his wallet.

While it’s definitely a polemic, “The Beast on the East River” is well researched, exploring the concepts of world organizations, world federalism and the final step, world government. Tabor quotes extensively from the writings of Professor Inis L. Claude of the University of Virginia who says there is little or no difference between world federalism and world government: World federalism is just a sugar-coated euphemism for World Government, the distinguished professor of government has written.

Tabor quotes from advocates of World Federalism/Government who call for an end to traditional nation states, to be subsumed by an even more powerful U.N., financed by taxes on emails, with a standing army of mercenaries similar to the French Foreign Legion. National sovereignty would gradually disappear, much like it is being eaten away by such supranational combinations as the European Union, Tabor says.

Some might be put off by Tabor’s quoting John Birch Society sources (“Get the U.S. Out of the U.N. and the U.N. Out of the U.S.” has been the JBS slogan for more than 40 years), but those who don’t want the U.S. – which contributes 22 percent of the budget of the bureaucracy bloated UN – to give up any more of its sovereignty to the world body will find many talking points in Tabor’s book. Full disclosure: As a libertarian, I count myself in this group, so Tabor was preaching to the choir in my case.

I did note a minor error: Tabor says that Pat Buchanan, of whom he speaks favorably, is in his 70s. Buchanan was born in November 1938, so he’s a mere 68! He’s exactly one month younger than the present reviewer.

Publisher’s web site: http://www.thomasnelson.com

Author’s web site: http://www.theconservativevoice.com

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Dangerous Nation’: A Provocative, Revisionist Look at American History – First of Two Volumes

Posted by kinchendavid on December 26, 2006

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV (HNN) – At last, a historian has finally gotten it right. Americans were “neoconservatives” from the start of the nation – nay, even before the start. That is, if the word “neoconservative” is used to designate an expansionist, righteous worldview that sees America as different from others. Not only different: Better!

That’s my reading of Robert Kagan’s “Dangerous Nation: America’s Place in the World from its Earliest Days to the Dawn of the 20th Century” (Knopf, $30, 527 pages, index, notes, bibliography), the first of two volumes that take a fresh – often radically provocative – look at American history and foreign policy. I’m eagerly awaiting the second volume which should be published in 2007.

Founding father Ben Franklin saw himself as both a loyal Briton and an American citizen and suggested well before the Revolution that the center of gravity of the British Empire had moved across the Atlantic to the emerging United States of America, Kagan notes. The standard of living in the colonies at the time of the American Revolution was higher than that in England, for most people, and the population was growing rapidly, in contrast to slow growth in Europe (If this sounds familiar it’s because it’s true to this day, with America growing rapidly – much of it because of legal and illegal immigration — in the 21st Century, in contrast to stagnant Europe).

Historians have been too quick to take American politicians at their word – or used just part of a speech to come to conclusions, suggests Kagan. Adams, Jefferson and succeeding presidents ignored the words of George Washington to avoid permanent, entangling alliances with European and other nations and went about building an American Empire.

Washington himself, in his younger days, in the mid 1750s, was part of an expeditionary force that attacked French strongholds in today’s Pennsylvania, even though official British policy was to have a buffer of Indian territory between the British colonies and the French ones, Kagan says.

The part about entangling alliances in Washington’s Farewell Address (for the complete text from the Avalon Project, click here: http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/washing.htm) was written with the help of Alexander Hamilton at Washington’s request, to attack the pro-French feelings of Jefferson, at a time the new nation was in a “quasi” war with France, Kagan says. Hamilton and Washington favored better relations with England. By the mid-to-late 1790s, the “factions” that Washington inveighed against – and which occupy most of the text of the Farewell Address of 1796 – had become the nascent political parties: The Federalists of Hamilton, Adams, Washington and others and the Anti-Federalists or Republicans of Jefferson, Madison, Patrick Henry, etc.

The second volume promises to deal with Wilson and other presidents like FDR who said one thing and did another. In my recent commentary on the 150th anniversary of the birth of Woodrow Wilson, http://www.huntingtonnews.net/columns/061219-kinchen-comment.html, I cited the late Concord University professor Sidney Bell’s 1972 book about Wilson’s foreign policy — “Righteous Conquest” — in stating that Wilson said one thing about foreign military adventures and did what he wanted, usually the exact opposite — as in leading the (mostly) unwilling U.S. into World War I in 1917.

Indian removal didn’t start with Andrew Jackson, Kagan writes. The sainted Thomas Jefferson was as ruthless as Jackson in clearing out Indian settlements in places like Tennessee and even Georgia almost three decades before Jackson went about removing the indigenous peoples of the Southeast and newly acquired Florida.

To read what Jefferson says about the Indians and their future in America is enough to turn any present day reader’s stomach, just as it is with Jackson. Jefferson wanted the Indians to become “civilized.” The tribes that did so, the Cherokees, for instance, who settled down and became farmers and Christians, fared little better than the ones who wanted to keep their own style of living as hunter-gatherers, Kagan writes.

I was surprised to find no mention of Aaron Burr in the book’s index or in the book. There was a reference to James Wilkinson of Kentucky, the corrupt, double-dealing commanding general of the U.S. Army at the time (1805-6) and one of Burr’s most important co-conspirators in his alleged plot – for which Burr was tried (and acquitted by Chief Justice John Marshall – a bitter foe of Jefferson) for treason in 1807 – to separate the western part of the nation from the eastern. Burr was an expansionist in the tradition that Kagan writes about, some would say even celebrates, in “Dangerous Nation.” Burr attempted to do in the early 1800s what the Americans who settled in the Mexican province of Texas finally did in 1836 – carve out an independent country in lands held by the Spanish.

“Righteous Conquest” is a good description of what the Pilgrims and Puritans had in mind; they were expansionist from the very beginning. After the Revolution, the U.S. standing army was a puny 700 men strong, Kagan says, and only the militias of the various states were available to keep settlers out of Indian lands – and they didn’t do a very good job.

Both the Indians and the French – and later the Spanish – saw the Americans for what they really were: Believers of “Manifest Destiny” before it acquired that popular designation in the mid-1800s.

Kagan emphasizes the divisive nature of slavery from the nation’s beginning, and how it affected foreign relations. Even many Southerners recognized the hypocrisy and contradiction of preaching freedom while owning slaves, Kagan says.

Southerners were especially fearful of a slave revolt in the wake of the one led by free blacks in Haiti at the end of the 18th Century and Jefferson refused to recognize or trade with the black nation. De Tocqueville’s account of America in the 1830s noted the difference between the industrious north and the almost entirely agricultural south and he used the term “American” only to refer to northerners, Kagan says.

This is a densely packed history, with extensive notes. If I were a history teacher and could use any book as a textbook on American history and diplomacy, “Dangerous Nation” would be on my short list. I recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone seeking a fresh perspective on American history.

Kagan’s 2002 “Of Paradise and Power” made him a hero to the neoconservatives because of his view that Americans are from Mars (warlike) while Europeans are from Venus (effeminate). This is an oversimplification, of course, but “Dangerous Nation” may end up making Kagan popular with the far left-wing fans of Howard Zinn (“ A People’s History of the U.S.”) and Noam Chomsky! Stranger things have happened.

A State Department official from 1985 to 1988 in America’s first “neoconservative” administration, that of Ronald Reagan (a former liberal Democrat turned Republican), Kagan, 48, is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a Washington Post columnist. He is a 1980 graduate of Yale University, earned a master’s from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and holds a PhD in American History from American University in Washington, D.C. He keeps his keen, contrarian eye on the world from his home in Brussels. He is married to Victoria Nuland, U.S. ambassador to NATO.

Publisher’s web site: http://www.aaknopf.com

Posted in Books | Leave a Comment »

Mexican Mafia Kingpin, Underlings Headed for Prison

Posted by kinchendavid on December 25, 2006

By Jim Kouri

A top Mexican Mafia member, who controlled Hispanic street gangs that operated across Orange County, CA, was sentenced on Dec. 18, 2006, to 14 years in federal prison after pleading guilty earlier this year to violating federal racketeering and narcotics laws.

Peter Ojeda, 64, was sentenced by United States District Judge David Carter in a packed Santa Ana courtroom.

Ojeda pleaded guilty on September 12 to conspiring to violate the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act and conspiring to distribute narcotics. A total of 28 people linked to the Ojeda Organization have now been convicted, either by guilty plea or following a trial.

One of Ojeda’s top lieutenants was also sentenced on Dec. 18, 2006 by Judge Carter to 37 months in prison. Jose Becerra, 39, pleaded guilty on August 14 to the RICO conspiracy count.

The members and associates of the Ojeda Organization were indicted by a federal grand jury in June 2005. The Ojeda Organization engaged in extortion and assault, as well as assisting in the distribution of narcotics throughout Orange County.

The Ojeda Organization included high-ranking members of several Hispanic street gangs, which helped the organization exert its influence across Orange County and into the Orange County jail system and California prisons.

The indictment alleged dozens of overt acts committed by members of the organization to expand the power and control of the enterprise. Detailing conduct in 2004 and early 2005, the RICO count outlined how Ojeda and his assistants demanded taxes from numerous street gangs and others who wanted to distribute drugs in Orange County.

The Ojeda Organization coordinated the collection of taxes from jail inmates who were selling drugs, and it ordered assaults on those who failed to pay taxes or showed disrespect to the organization.

The Ojeda Organization required Hispanic criminal street gangs in Orange County to pay money as a “tax” or “tribute” on a regular basis. They permitted the tax-paying gangs and gang members to exert influence over their neighborhoods and territories. The group often disciplined Orange County criminal street gangs and their members who engaged in unsanctioned violence, such as a drive-by shooting, which could cause increased law enforcement attention and thereby threaten the income of the Ojeda gang.

Ojeda’s other top lieutenant, Marco Diaz, 33, of Santa Ana, pleaded guilty to a RICO charge in September. Diaz, who admitted that he helped Ojeda’s organization extort “taxes” from street gangs and ordered punishment to those who did not pay, is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Carter on January 8, 2007.

Of the 23 defendants already sentenced, Judge Carter has imposed penalties ranging from 24 to 292 months in federal prison.

* * * *

Jim Kouri is fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police and he’s a staff writer for the New Media Alliance (thenma.org). He’s a former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed “Crack City” by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for several major organizations. Kouri has appeared as on-air commentator for more than 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book “Assume The Position” is available at Amazon.Com. Kouri’s own website is located at http://jimkouri.U.S.

Posted in News | Leave a Comment »

BOOK REVIEW: ‘Walt Disney’ Shows in Great Detail Influence of Mickey’s Creator on American Culture; Author Neal Gabler First to Have Full Access to Disney Archives

Posted by kinchendavid on December 24, 2006

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen
Huntington News Network Book Critic

Hinton, WV  – First off, Walter Elias Disney (1901-1966) was not cryogenically frozen, Neal Gabler tells us, upon his death from lung cancer at age 65: He was cremated and his ashes are at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, CA, — not far from the Disney corporate headquarters in Burbank.

Gabler (“An Empire of Their Own,” “Winchell”) spent seven years researching and writing “Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination” (Knopf, 880 pages, $35, 32 pages of photos, notes, filmography, bibliography, index) and it shows: The details and insights and revelations provide the most complete picture of Disney and his genius that we’re likely to see. Gabler shows himself in this magnificent biography to be a perfectionist worthy of his subject. “Walt Disney” is on my short list of prize winners; it’s the best biography I’ve read all year.

As Gabler points out, Disney was not a great cartoonist, writer or animator, but he had the vision and imagination – and perseverance – to create immortal characters like Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and create groundbreaking feature-length movies like “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) and (my favorite) “Fantasia” (1940) – to mention just two of his dozens of features. “Snow White” was not the first feature-length animated movie, but it was the first in the new Technicolor process and set the pattern for those today that are produced with computer technology but owe their spirit to “Snow White.”

This biography is important if only because we shouldn’t take a talent like the Chicago-born Walt Disney for granted (one of these days I’m going to do an appreciation of the great cinematic talent from the Windy City, including such directing immortals as Preston Sturges and Don Siegel, as well as actors, writers and others as varied as David Mamet, William Petersen and Harrison Ford).

Gabler, himself a Chicago native, demolishes several myths and misconceptions about Disney. One of them is that his studio turned out nothing but box office and critical successes. It’s true that the cartoon shorts enabled Disney to hire the best talent in the business from the late 1920 on, starting in earnest with “Steamboat Willie,” the first talking short cartoon, and continuing to “Snow White” and beyond.

The fact is that Disney was always on the edge of financial disaster because his shorts cost twice as much as competing ones from Warner’s, the Fleischer brothers and other studios and his feature-length animated movies were stupendously expensive and often didn’t return the investment on the first release. Walt Disney in his early years was a perfectionist and perfection costs a lot of money for an animation studio – or any other enterprise. Gabler shows how this perfection withered away to a large degree as Disney concentrated on his theme parks, his work with the New York World’s Fair of 1964-5 and his live action features to the detriment of animated ones.

Another myth that Gabler – famous for writing about Jews in the movie industry – “An Empire of Their Own” – and Jews in show business and journalism – “Winchell” – at least partially demolishes is that Walt Disney was an anti-Semite. Gabler says he sometimes expressed the casual anti-Semitism of the time and was a member of a “restricted” club, Smoke Tree Ranch, in Palm Springs, but Disney was also honored as “Man of the Year” by the Beverly Hills Lodge of the Jewish organization B’nai B’rith in 1955 — the same chapter that less than a decade before had attacked him for the alleged racism of his retelling of Joel Chandler Harris’s Uncle Remus in “Song of the South” (1946).

After a bitter 1941 union organizing strike at his newly occupied Burbank studios, Disney became a red-hunter who maintained his own blacklist, Gabler tells us. Jews in Hollywood were fully represented in union organizing efforts and were well represented in left-wing, anti-Fascist, anti-Nazi causes before Pearl Harbor. Some of the biggest Jewish moguls were also on far right of the political spectrum with Disney, including the Warner Brothers and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Louis B. Mayer, Gabler notes.

But Disney had many Jewish animators and executives, such as Dave Swift and Harry Tytle (shortened from Teitelbaum) and one of his most enduring friendships was with a Jew, Herman “Kay” Kamen, who brilliantly marketed Disney products beginning in the early 1930s, keeping the quality at the highest levels and creating yet another facet of the entertainment business that is with us today. Kamen and his wife died in an Air France plane crash returning from Europe in 1949 and Walt and Roy Disney began marketing the products themselves.

Speaking of Roy Oliver Disney (1893-1971), he’s a relatively minor figure in Gabler’s book — where the focus, naturally, is on Walt. Gabler does credit Roy, co-founder of Disney Productions and its CEO from 1929 to 1971, as the financial anchor to his creative brother. Roy was almost always the one who went hat in hand looking for money from the Bank of America and elsewhere and wasn’t the naysayer to the creation of Disneyland that I always thought he was.

Roy and Walt came up with the idea of WED Enterprises, a private company within the publicly traded Walt Disney Productions — with the view to protecting the studio from Walt and Walt from the studio, Gabler says — and was instrumental in bringing ABC and Disney together that led to the wildly successful, for both ABC and Disney, “Disneyland” television show. Today, of course, Disney owns ABC.

Roy made sure that his younger brother was immortalized by renaming the Florida theme park from “Disney World” to “Walt Disney World” and oversaw its completion, retiring in the fall of 1971 when the park opened and dying two months later at 78. Bob Thomas published a biography of Roy Disney in 1998, but maybe it’s time for an update, with full access to the archives. Financial geniuses are creative, too.

The idea for a Disney theme park, which was realized with the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. in 1955, germinated for a long time in Disney’s head. He incorporated parts of his beloved Marceline, Mo., where the family lived during much of young Walt’s childhood, as well as bits and pieces of the 1933 Century of Progress fair in Chicago, Henry Ford’s Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich., European amusement parks like Tivoli in Copenhagen, Denmark and American amusement parks like Chicago’s now defunct Riverview and Cincinnati’s Coney Island.

A devoted family man, Walt took his daughters Diane and Sharon to Southern California amusement parks in the 1940s on Sundays. He wanted what he called a “clean” amusement park, in contrast to the often raffish parks like The Pike in Long Beach and others in the Southland, as Californians are wont to call the greater Los Angeles area.

Although Gabler was granted full access to the Disney archives, this is definitely not an “authorized” biography. Gabler deals fully with the often stormy relationship between the eccentric Walt and his feet-firmly-planted-on-the-ground wife Lillian. She was opposed to Disneyland, not to mention “Snow White,” Gabler points out, resulting in a wry comment from her husband that if he had listened to her, his career would have been a shadow of what it became. Disney’s temper and ego are dealt with, as is his 1931 nervous breakdown and continuing bouts with depression.

The deal with ABC secured financing for the park and businesses scrambled to be represented in the Orange County facility. Oil companies, chemical companies, automobile manufacturers – even the often skeptical Bank of America which had a long relationship with Disney – were enthusiastic about the park and contributed financially for discreet naming rights – another Disney innovation. We learn that one who didn’t make the cut was a Chicago fast-food entrepreneur named Ray Kroc, who trained to be a Red Cross ambulance driver during World War I with Walt (Walt saw action, Kroc, a year younger, didn’t go overseas). Walt Disney turned over Kroc’s request to the park’s construction manager, C.V. Wood, who brushed off the man behind McDonald’s!

The park originally was to have been built in Burbank, in the San Fernando Valley, not far from the Disney Studios, but the city’s staid officials objected to an amusement park in the city that was home to Disney and Warner Bros., among other studios. Professional market research, Gabler writes, went into the choice of an orange grove in Anaheim, convenient to the freeways which were being built to replace the extensive network of interurban trains that linked the communities of the sprawling Southland. (It’s ironic that today, the L.A. area is engaged in replicating the rail system which it destroyed after World War II. Rail fanatic Walt Disney would appreciate the irony.).

Forty years after his death on Dec. 15, 1966, Walt Disney is a powerful American icon, polarizing critics and other intellectuals, but remaining popular with mass audiences who grasped that the vast majority of his cartoon features and live action features are not the simple-minded stereotypes that some critics have called them. Gabler has succeeded in showing how Walt Disney was the ultimate “Imagineer.” This is a must-read book for anyone interested in American culture and the movie industry.

Publisher’s web site: http://www.aaknopf.com

Posted in Books, Movies/TV | 1 Comment »

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Christians Suffer Under Muslim Rule in West Bank, Gaza, But Christian Mayor of Bethlehem Blames Israel!

Posted by kinchendavid on December 24, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV  – A question on this Christmas Eve for Arab Christians: Where would you rather live, in Israel or in Gaza or the West Bank — including Bethlehem?

Before you turn to http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=26147 for the answer, ponder these points.

Bethlehem Mayor Victor Batarseh, meet Jimmy Carter. The 71-year-old Roman Catholic Marxist (now there’s a unique combination!) blames Israel’s security fence for the decline in tourism and the 65 percent unemployment rate in the birthplace of Jesus. He’s on the same page with the sage of Plains, GA, who calls Israel an apartheid nation in his latest book.

Neither one blames the Muslim Palestinians, according to Michael I. Krauss and J. Peter Pham writing about “The Dark Fate of Christians Under Palestinian Rule” in FrontPageMagazine.com on Dec. 22, 2006 (click on the link above to read the complete article).

Krauss and Pham: “In mid-September, after Pope Benedict XVI’s remarks about medieval Islam, Palestinian Islamic militants waged the most violent attacks against Christian holy sites in the PA territories in recent years. On September 15, 2006, grenades were thrown at the oldest church in Gaza. On September 16, firebombs were hurled at five different churches throughout the PA. On September 17, in Tulkarm, a 170-year-old church was burned to the ground.”

To accommodate tourists who might be deterred by the security fence – which has drastically reduced suicide attacks against Israelis of all religions – Krauss and Pham write that “Israel’s Ministry of Tourism is operating complimentary shuttles running every half hour from Mar Elias Monastery in southern Jerusalem to Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. To help ease pilgrims’ travels, Israeli security has arranged to check passports before travelers disembark from the shuttles. The measures were implemented this year to prevent traffic jams at the Rachel border crossing between Jerusalem and Bethlehem as 15,000 to 18,000 pilgrims are expected to travel between the two cities this Christmas. As in years past, the Municipality of Jerusalem and the Jewish National Fund distributed free Christmas trees on December 21 at Jaffa Gate Square in Jerusalem. Additionally, [Christian] Israelis will be allowed to drive in and out of Bethlehem with their private cars to attend holiday festivities in the West Bank.”

Sounds pretty friendly to this observer, especially when you consider that Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow any Christian worship of any kind within its vast expanses, let alone Jewish worship!

Again, Krauss and Pham: “Statistics indicate that last Christmas, nearly 146,000 Christians lived in Israel, 2.1 percent of her population. Meanwhile, in the PA, the Christian population has been on the decline for years. Currently, Palestinian Christians from the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem comprise less than two percent of the total Palestinian population, less than in Israel! Christians living under the Palestinian Authority have fled in recent years due to economic deterioration and the second intifada. Islamic violence aimed at the dwindling Christian population in the last few months has led to a further population decline.”

So, Mayor Batarseh, in the words of Jose Feliciano, whom I saw perform in the Chicago area 41 years ago, “Feliz Navidad.” To be precise, Feliciano performed in a club on Dempster Avenue in the suburb of Skokie, home to many holocaust survivors, as well as Christian and Muslim Arabs, all of whom live in peace. That’s the true meaning of Christmas, as I see it.

Posted in Parallel Universe | Leave a Comment »

PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Intellectual Diversity? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Intellectual Diversity!

Posted by kinchendavid on December 22, 2006

By David M. Kinchen
Editor, Huntington News Network

Hinton, WV  – I’m at the point where I hesitate to open my bookmarked FrontpageMag.com site, for fear of what fresh hell (apologies to Dorothy Parker) awaits me on the P.C. front.

Sure enough, Roger Kimball has an essay on the Dec. 20, 2006 site about radical professors fighting back as conservative/libertarian ones – a tiny minority – try to establish beachheads of thought at their academic homes.

We’re talking about prestigious and very expensive private colleges and universities like Hamilton College in Clinton, NY or Amherst College in Amherst, Massachusetts, where the $33,000 annual tuition is on a level with a similar amount at Harvard. Room and board extra, of course! Hamilton is also in the $33,000 range, according to my new 2007 “World Almanac.”

A Midwest equivalent would be Antioch University in Yellow Springs, OH. On the Left Coast, Occidental College in the Eagle Rock district of Los Angeles is in the same league. Reed College in Portland, OR is a good example in the Pacific Northwest. Wonder of wonders: Both Reed and Oxy are in the $33,000 tuition and fees club!

Kimball, co-Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion and President and Publisher of Encounter Books, says that “intellectual diversity is unwelcome at American universities” with the predominantly left-wing faculty and administration running what are effectively one-party states: “bastions of what the literary critic Frederick Crews called ‘Left Eclecticism.”

Kimball: “At many institutions, you’ll find 57 varieties of Marxist, feminist, post-colonial, deconstructionist, new-historicist animus, united by reader-proof prose and a thoroughgoing hostility to traditional American values. But you have to look long and hard to find more than token representation of conservative ideas.” This point was emphasized this year with my reading and reviewing books like David Horowitz’s “The Professors” and – most recently – Elizabeth Kantor’s “The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature.” There are outposts of conservative/libertarian thought at many elite universities, Kimball states: “The imbalance is so great that at some institutions, dissident — i.e., conservative–faculty members have created centers where students and faculty can encounter alternative points of view. The James Madison Center at Princeton is one conspicuous example, as is the Political Theory Project at Brown and the Center for Freedom and Western Civilization at Colgate. Such centers do not alter the fundamental chemistry on campus — nearly all colleges remain reliably left-of-center–but they do at least provide a smidgen of reality to all the rhetoric about diversity.” Apparently, such centers are too much for the overwhelmingly left-wing faculty member, he says, pointing to Amherst College, where “ the political philosopher Hadley Arkes wanted to start a center for the American Founding. He lined up a donor willing to invest $10 million to establish then Center. The administration turned down the money. Why? Good question. They had just accepted $13 million to establish a Center for Community Engagement, but that initiative did not threaten the ideological status quo at what many now call the People’s Republic of Amherst.”

For the complete article by Kimball, click on


I, for one, hope that as the current Baby Boomer generation of hard left-wing ideologues retires and/or dies off, a younger generation of academics more tolerant of true intellectual diversity will shift the balance. I don’t want a dictatorship of either left-wingers or right-wingers. This is my hope and dream and I thank Kimball, Horowitz, Kantor and many others this year for pointing out the problem in academe.

Posted in Parallel Universe | Leave a Comment »

COMMENTARY: Extra! Extra! There is No War on Christmas…Except the Abuse by Media and Merchants

Posted by kinchendavid on December 21, 2006

By Joseph J. Honick

Bainbridge Island, WA  – The flap over something called the “war on Christmas” is by now rather boring. If there is such a war, it does not come from any legitimately religious element. Rather the war comes from the ham handed marketing by all and sundry selling stuff you would not look at the rest of the year.

This marketing attack on Christmas that starts as midnight descends on Halloween not only demeans all aspects of Christmas, Hanukkah and all other holidays related to the calendar but has caused all this conflict among good people simply trying to celebrate something of importance to them.

A lot of attention was given to a flap over Christmas trees in the Seatac airport in Seattle. An orthodox Rabbi threatened legal action unless a Hanukkah menorah (candelabra) was also included. The trees came out; the Rabbi changed his mind; the trees went back.

Bill O’Reilly, on what must have been a bad news day, weighed in with his usual slam bang suggestions of nefarious cabals as did the energetic Lou Dobbs who seemed not to have paid attention to the details of the silly actions at the airport and used the broad brush as if it all reflected a national scheme of some sorts.

Contrary to one writer who suggested there was no room for Jesus at Seatac, the reality is that the whole thing was simply a PR effort in the first place. The media are also complicit in this matter, happily selling the huge amount of inserts, advertising and other revenue producers to entice or embarrass parents to buy stuff they often cannot afford.

So let’s stop this blather about a “war on Christmas”. It does not exist except in the promotional departments of all those folks who make your daily and Sunday papers almost twice as heavy as usual and who start blasting away before Halloween is even out of the way on radio and TV and anywhere else demanding you spend enough money to make those advertisers happier.

The unruly crowds that swarmed into stores as the warmth of Thanksgiving was cooling, reflected the effectiveness of all that smash mouth promotion that had not one thing to do with the spiritual aspects of anyone’s faith, Christian, Jewish, Muslim or anything else. Consider what was being promoted in the process: computer games at prices few could afford but all had to have if peace would be maintained at home, games that threatened harsh response if some people did not want to convert to Christianity, and on and on it has gone…on the radio, TV, all over the internet and any place where hard hitting promotion could take place.

For those really interested, however, there is no inter-religious war on Christmas at all. If any such conflict exists at all, and readers are really concerned, they should know that they have become partners in it all by responding like Pavlov’s dog as soon as the bells crying out sales began two months ago.

* * *

Honick is president of GMA International Ltd., the consulting firm he established in 1975. Its principal areas involved working to broaden business opportunities abroad for American companies and assisting them in preparing for such effort. He is also a regular contributor to Huntington News Network.

Posted in Guest Commentaries | Leave a Comment »